Jobs are disappearing every day. The key to saving yours or even improving your position is making yourself valuable to the company—being promote-able rather than dispensable. Here’s a quick list of things you can do every day (starting with Day One) to boost your own job security:
- Make your boss look good. If you’re key to making your boss succeed, and s/he gets promoted, you increase your chances of being promoted, too.
- Put forth your very best effort in everything you’re asked to do, no matter how trivial it may seem. It’s probably not trivial to your boss.
- Dress like those who are one level above you in the organization. If you look like the guy at the bottom of the totem pole, you’re more likely to stay there, because that’s how others will think of you.
- Keep a notepad and pen with you at all times to keep track of names, deadlines, and promises made. A big part of your job is to make your boss succeed. If s/he doesn’t take good notes, yours might ‘save’ them sometime—making you even more valuable.
- Offer opinions only when asked; offer solutions and helpful information as often as possible. Bring problem situations to the attention of your boss only after you have formulated at least one solution or improvement that you can present at the same time—unless, of course, it’s an emergency that’s time-critical, but still try to have at least one even-partially-formulated potential solution.
- Always keep up with reading the most important publications associated with your line of work. It may be the local paper, the Wall Street Journal, or a professional journal—either subscribe, go to the library, borrow a copy, or read it online, but keep up with the news and trends in your field so you will always be current.
- Never hand in the first draft of any written work—put extra effort into accuracy, thoroughness, and attention to detail (especially grammar and spelling). Use writing aids or take a class, if necessary. In a professional office environment, your chances of promotion are pretty slim if you don’t have good writing skills.
- When you’re not very busy, don’t sit back and relax. Ask for more work—but take on only as much as you can accomplish at a high level of quality.
- Try to meet as many people as possible in order to build your professional network of contacts. You’ll want to keep in touch with these people when they, or you, leave the company.
- Always follow the unwritten rules of the workplace to a ‘T. ’ If you ‘rub someone the wrong way’ or end up on the wrong end of a political struggle, you may ruin your chances of being promoted or could even lose your job. What you see as independence or creativity may be seen by your superiors as rebellion or inflexibility.
- Be a team player. Devote your energies to helping your project team or department succeed, and make an effort to get along well with your teammates—always giving credit where it’s due. Taking the credit for work or ideas that are not yours always ends up backfiring, sooner or later.
- Improve on, or learn, foreign language skills. Companies with international offices, or planning to expand, will use these as criteria for making international assignments or promotions into management. It’s becoming more important every year.
- Learn the business—cross-training is critical. It’s great to be an ‘expert’ in your own field or department, but if you can find ways to learn about other departments, projects, or teams, you make yourself even more valuable. If cross-department projects come up, volunteer for them. Or take night classes to learn the fundamental skills of a different department than the one you’re in.
- Keep your eye on the details of your work. Grasping the Big Picture is great and valuable, but staying intimate with the details of your projects will prevent anything from ‘falling through the cracks’ that could jeopardize your credibility or job.
- Network, network, network—inside and outside your company. The more people who know of you and your abilities, the greater your opportunities will be for better assignments, promotions, and future job leads in other companies. Waiting until you need contacts is not the time to start networking!
- Be a problem solver. Always look for ways of finding and distributing valuable information; offering solutions to problems; brainstorming ideas for improving procedures; or creating new products or services. Never be critical about the way things are now; just offer ways to make things better.
- When working on a project, don’t assume everything will go smoothly. It probably won’t. Stay positive, but also try to anticipate problems and have solutions ready so you don’t get pulled down and lose focus.
- Try to find a mentor. Ask at your professional association—they may have a list of executives who are willing to help young people along by ‘showing them the ropes’ and offering advice. One savvy insight from a mentor can go a long way to solidifying your future. - Keep track of your accomplishments, the equipment you’ve used, and the skills you’ve learned. Update your resume every time you accomplish something significant or different so you won’t have to rush if you ever need one quickly. You’ll need it to apply for a promotion, for a move to another department, if you get laid off, or if you hear of a great opportunity elsewhere.
- Ask your boss what it takes to get promoted, devise a strategy with him to get any training you need, and concentrate on those areas on a daily basis.
- Continue to learn all you can about technological improvements in your field—they determine how you perform your job. Because technical skills can become outdated quickly, you must continuously upgrade them. If you’re an engineer, this may mean learning about new software. If you’re a writer, it may mean learning the new features in word processing and desktop publishing software.
Armed with these tips, you're ready to hit the ground running in a new job or boost your security in the one you already have!
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Kathryn Marion is President of Education for Reality™.in Erie, Colorado. Her book Success in the ‘Real World:’ The Graduate's Complete Guide to Making the Most of Your Career (and Your Life!) was released in April ‘05 in e-book format for its tenth anniversary-it was distributed through schools, colleges, and universities to nearly two million new graduates. Jam-packed with savvy insights and helpful advicem it covers everything from careers to money management to handling personal and even legal matters. Visit http://www.EducationForReality.com and sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Dose of RealityTM-it will give you a ‘dose’ of advice on your career, your money, and your life each month as well as point you to additional online resources which will help you in these areas-so you don't have to surf the Net (we do it for you!).